NOAH BECKER, October 2020
Stephen Romano spoke with me about his new show. I've been trying to track him down for a few months because we were both good friends with the late collage artist Michael Anderson. Aside from the conversation about how Michael touched both our lives, I wanted to ask Stephen about his museum show in Cleveland Ohio at The Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick. I was born in Cleveland and I don't recall a Witchcraft Museum...
NOAH BECKER: What is it about the spirit world that interests you?
STEPHEN ROMANO: Since early childhood I had a propensity towards the esoteric, collecting comic books, watching horror films on Saturday afternoon or going to the cinema, and making my own occult art. In the mind of a child who feels like an outsider, as I surely did, you will find an extensive and complex fantasy life. Over time our imaginary friends become conjures, and we see into the other side or the spirit world, or at least we think we do. I’ve had unusual experiences my whole life, for instance clearly seeing and hearing things that others didn’t... So while I’ve had a propensity to suspend disbelief, it’s not something you go around broadcasting, the skeptics are many, will be jealous and if threatened may become hostile. Psychic vampires. So that made me drawn to and want to perpetuate the esoteric art, it’s a means by which a seeker, and by that I simply mean those us who reject the hegemony and are looking for a different order, a seeker may cross the threshold into the gallery and interact with the art that gives them affirmation. It’s the one of greatest of noble pursuits in collecting art to share with others, to inspire awe in others, especially in these bewildering times.
NB: Was it difficult to gather all these old photos?
SR: Not at all, it was a thrilling odyssey! It’s like hunting, hunting for power.. the thrill of tracking is something great.. it’s so exciting, and when you find it, even if you have to track for days, the reward is magnificent, you know you’ve found something incredibly powerful, something maybe only you understand or appreciate, as it fits into the overall sensibilities of the collection, or perpetuates it in another direction, draws out elements of other things that maybe you hadn’t even thought of before. Collection building IS a lot like hunting, hunting for personal power. It can be a most enriching pursuit in term of quality of life.
NB: What are you hoping viewers experience after seeing the show?
SR: Well as I mentioned, it’s about inspiring awe. For me, mixing the contemporary with the historical with the vernacular and the folk and art brut, it creates a cinematic experience for the viewer. The mind becomes engaged with multiple narratives, multiple timelines, drawing out the viewer’s subjective experience to connect a thread of continuity.. I hope that they have a memorable interaction with the show, and will recall some of these works when they go back out into the world.. In the broader sense, I hope the experience of the show gives them more courage to embrace the esoteric if they need that.. it’s a wonderful aspect of life that can open one up to be receptive to experiences we might otherwise overlook.
NB: What is coming up for you?
SR: Well, other than day to day dealing, not much in this time of the pandemic as we have to very carefully assess where to put resources of time energy and finances, and try our best to not engage in projects that won’t perpetuate the art or our activities as dealers.
We were going to show the “NO STARS” series Josh Stebbins did for our Twin Peaks show ( https://tinyurl.com/y5v6qoko ) we did last year, at Graceland in Memphis for the official 30th anniversary of Twin Peaks celebration, but that got cancelled thanks to Covid., and we were so looking forward to that.
We had a few other irons in the fire, including a memorial exhibition commemorating the 55th anniversary of the passing William Mortensen, and an exhibition in homage to the filmmaker Gaspar Noe, as well as a major exhibition of the art of American Visionary artist Charles AA Dellschau at a renowned outsider art gallery in Manhattan. But all these things so far ended up going into a black hole of uncertainty..
Meanwhile, I’ve been doing some Virtual 3D galleries (https://tinyurl.com/y5qzbrdc ) in collaboration with Kunstmatrix in Germany, which have been getting a surprising response and good sales.
We’re in the formative stages to bring a variation of the “Apparitions” exhibition to London this coming spring, hopefully that’s far enough into the future that a project of that degree of ambition will be able to come to fruition. I have a genuine admiration for any one who in this perplexing environment is able to bring their projects to materialization. WM
Noah Becker shows his paintings internationally. A visual artist, saxophonist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine, Becker has also written freelance articles for many other major magazines. Becker's writing has appeared in The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post. He has also written texts for major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010) viewable on Youtube.
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